Understanding Flood Zones: How to Check Flood Zone Maps and Safeguard Your Home

March 11, 2024

Every house owner eventually faces the risk of flooding. And it is only natural to wonder if your house is in a flood zone and whether it is possible to prevent your home from flooding. Assessing the risks and examining the area can help you be prepared should this natural disaster strike.

U.S. citizens are no strangers to floods and other cataclysms. Back in 2019, the combined cost of flood damage in several U.S. states reached $20 billion. What does it mean for local property owners? The conditions are not perfect — for one thing, taking out additional insurance can save the day.

But before we get into that, let’s examine the differences between various flood zones and look into ways of establishing whether the location of your house poses any flood-related risks.

How to Know If You Live in a Flood Zone

Technically, every location has the potential of becoming a flood area.

If at this point you are wondering whether a flood can take place literally anywhere, it definitely can. In fact, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that every American state experiences flooding of different degrees. And that is why most house owners are trying to determine whether their property is vulnerable to floods and to which extent.

That’s right! Not every location is created equal. Some of the areas can pose greater risks. The most effective way to find that out is to use the FEMA flood map. These maps typically include the areas that pose greater or lesser levels of risk and their borders.

So how can you use these maps to figure out whether your property is vulnerable? Well, you do not actually need to use the FEMA website for that. FEMA created a specialized NFHL Viewer that allows users to type the address and access the effective data. After you submit the request, the Viewer pulls up your area records and creates a PDF file with detailed information on the matter. For instance, this file can give you an idea of how the flood map looks like if you live in Houston, TX.

If you want to be alerted about the flood hazard right away, we recommend signing up for the community warning systems, emergency and government alerts, and much more. NOAA also offers weather radars and notifications available through mobile apps for Android and Apple devices.

When you finally get to read the flood map, you might be confused by the names of the zones varying from A to V. Apart from indicating different risk levels, A-to-V labels imply specific flood insurance requirements. That is why house owners need to learn to distinguish between different zone types.

Flood Zone Types Explained

As mentioned before, each area indicates the level of risk ranging from low to high, various regulations, and a flooding category typical for specific zones.

Here’s a quick look at the key flood zone categories, how they are labeled, and what you should watch out for if your house is in one of these areas.

What Is Flood Zone D?

This territory has an unspecified level of risk. But it does not mean that floods are not likely to take place. On the contrary, they might occur. But due to the lack of research, it is impossible to verify the probability.

In some cases, communities incorporate a new territory which is labeled as a D zone. It might happen if the map of this area has not yet been prepared. This way, the community notifies local house owners about the state of this territory.

D zones are often underpopulated and undeveloped, which makes them allegedly risky. So if you plan on buying a property at a D zone, you will be encouraged to take out flood insurance. But you need to bear in mind that the state of these territories increases the premiums, which means that they are often higher than in low-risk areas.

What Is Flood Zone C?

Like X and B zones, these territories pose minimal risks — approximately a 0.2% chance of flooding. If you look at the map, you will notice that these territories are generally unshaded. But the minimal percentage does not entirely negate the likelihood of a flood.

Do House Owners Need Insurance in C Zones?

Given the low likelihood of flooding, buying a policy might not seem sensible in this case. But before you abandon the idea altogether, consider these questions:

  • Are there ponds or other areas where the water is pooling? If there are and these areas are close to your house, you should seriously weigh the pros and cons.
  • Are there available resources to prevent or manage the rising levels of floodwater?
  • Do climate changes increase the probability of flooding in your area and neighborhood? It is no secret that climate changes impact the frequency and severity of storms, hurricanes, etc. That is why house owners should monitor the level of area vulnerability and consider buying additional insurance.

If at least one of your answers was positive, you need to get in touch with your provider and inquire about additional coverage.

What Is Flood Zone X?

What Is Flood Zone X?

If you see both shaded and unshaded X zones on the map, do not get confused. The shaded areas imply an annual risk ranging from 0.2 to 1%, and unshaded areas typically imply less than 0.2% risk.

The good news is that owning a house in the X zone does not mean that you have to take out flood insurance. Even so, it might come in handy to monitor the state of this territory, climate-related predictions, and take measures to safeguard your residence and belongings from potential water damage.

What Is Flood Zone A?

A zones have significant flooding potential because of their geographic location — next to streams, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. All the A zones require flood insurance for obvious reasons.

The names of these areas differ depending on the way they might be flooded. That is why people living in any of these areas (AE, A1-A30, AH, AO, or AR) should follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure that the floor height in your home is above the Base Flood Elevation.
  • Any areas below the suggested BFE level should not be used as a living space.
  • Any equipment must not be placed below the indicated level.

As for A zone insurance rates, the annual average cost is roughly $700. However, it might vary depending on the area you live in, its peculiarities, and whether your residence is flood-proof.

What Is Flood Zone AE?

It is an A zone area with 1% risk, but it can differ depending on its location. In other words, AE zones are never identical.

Construction is typically allowed in this area but has numerous restrictions due to close water meadows, floodplains, and bodies of water. For instance, houses in AE zones cannot have basements because of the high probability of water damage.


Do I have to buy flood insurance?

Of course, you do not have to unless you live in a high-risk area or have a mortgage to pay.

Lenders typically oblige house owners to get additional insurance because properties often get severely damaged by the floodwaters and become uninhabitable. Other than that, it is completely up to you.

Can I find flood areas on Google Maps?

Yes, you can. Like with other search queries, you can enter the name of your city in a search field here and check if the Hydrological Prediction Center has any information on the picked location.

Do you have to be eligible to get flood insurance?

No, any person can get additional coverage should they wish to do so. Naturally, insurance needs depend on various factors. As a rule, most renters, house owners, and entrepreneurs choose to purchase it.

When is flood insurance required?

It is generally required when you take a mortgage or when your residence falls in a high-risk area. But bear in mind that the policy takes effect 30 days after the signing. If the matter is time-sensitive, it might be a good call to take care of the coverage in advance.

Is there a way to minimize flood losses?

There are general guidelines and suggestions all house owners should follow, including:

  • Ensuring the suggested floor height
  • Checking the proper utility placement
  • Regular maintenance of drains and gutters
  • Using waterproofing materials for the underground facilities like basements
  • Storing all the valuables and documents on the top floors

Victoria Berezhetska

Victoria Berezhetska is a Content Lead at Phonexa.com and an expert contributor to CoverExplore. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with extensive working experience as a PR specialist and content writer. At CoverExplore, she helps customers find the right educational material through easily digestible blog posts and buying guides backing their insurance coverage choice. Victoria covers diverse topics around digital and insurance marketing, including auto, home, health, and life insurance.

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